By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings marched down the field and scored a touchdown before forcing a three-and-out on the New England Patriots first drive. It all went downhill from there.
The Vikings (1-1) had all the momentum for seven minutes and 23 seconds until Matt Cassel threw the first of four interceptions. Devin McCourty caught the pass and returned it to the one-yard line. The Patriots took complete control of the game.
The Patriots (1-1) went on to score 30 straight points to blow out the Vikings 30-7 Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
The Vikings offense went 80 yards on seven plays on the opening drive without Adrian Peterson, who was deactivated after his indictment late last week. The rest of the game, they recorded 137 total yards in 54 plays.
Matt Asiata, filling in for Peterson, hauled in a short pass from Cassel and ran up the sideline for the game’s first score four minutes and six seconds into the game.
Offense Grade: F
The Vikings offense was abysmal. Everyone from the offensive line to quarterback to the wide receivers. Asiata averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. The offensive line had trouble opening holes and giving Cassel time to throw.
When Cassel was able to throw, he was either inaccurate or the receiver dropped the ball, even Greg Jennings and Kyle Rudolph had their share of drops. Rudolph even had two on consecutive plays. The passes weren’t perfectly thrown, but were catchable.
The Vikings offense was just ineffective and overmatched by a Patriots defense that could not stop the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.
Defense Grade: C
The Vikings defense stuffed the Patriots on three straight plays to open the game. However, the Patriots picked the Vikings apart the rest of the game.
After punting on the their first drive, the Patriots did not punt again until late in the second quarter. During that stretch, the Patriots scored 17 points – including 14 off turnovers.
Brady and the Patriots picked on Xavier Rhodes. The second-year cornerback was flagged with two pass interference penalties and was beaten by Julian Edelman on a 3rd-and-14 play for a 44-yard gain. Edelman finished the game with 81 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Brady finished with a 102.3 rating.
Quarterback Grade: F
The only positive from Cassel was the opening drive. He completed all four of his pass attempts for 75 yards and the touchdown. Cassel missed open receivers and made bad decisions on the interceptions. He is a game-managing quarterback that does not have the talent to overcome turnovers.
It got so bad in the third quarter that the crowd started shouting “Teddy” for rookie first round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings coaching staff will wait as long as they can before bringing him into a game. Bridgewater’s debut will only come if Cassel gets hurt during a game or as a permanent starter.
Special Teams Grade: F
The only chance the special teams had to do something was a disaster. Blair Walsh lined up for a 47-yard field goal to cut the Vikings deficit to seven points with nine seconds remaining in the first half. Instead Chandler Jones streaked through the offensive line and blocked the kick. To make matters worse, Jones picked up the loose ball and ran 58 yards for a touchdown. The special teams miscue was a 10-point swing in the wrong direction for the Vikings.
The rest of the special units were either nonexistent or just as bad. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski boomed most of the kickoffs through the end zone for touchbacks, Marcus Sherels had just one punt return opportunity and the Patriots had no kickoff returns. The punt coverage unit was also ineffective allowing Edelman to return four punts for a 16.5 yard average, including a 34-yarder.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.